Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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A conversation

Hey Katie-girl.

Today marks three months since you went over that bridge alone. I think about you every day. But you know that, don’t you.

It’s your favorite time of year, sweetie.

This morning I went to your park to take a walk. It’s the first time I’ve been there alone since you left.

Morning light made the flowers glow.

You know your daddy and I were at your park just after that day, with your Aunt Beth, and she played the bagpipes for you near the pond.

You’d be upset at how much algae is in your pond.

I haven’t been able to go back since, sweetie, not without you. It hurt so much to be a Katie’s Park today, but I had a mission.

I’ll get to that in a bit.

The goldenrod is beautiful this year.

First of all I parked at the township office instead of where you and I always parked. I didn’t think I was ready for everything to be the same and yet so different. So I parked in a different spot.

That helped me get out of the car.

Blue sky and yellow fields.

The park was beautiful, as always. You would have loved it, the air was cool and the sun was just up over the treetops.

Loosestrife, I know it’s invasive but it’s so pretty.

But you wouldn’t have loved getting your feet wet. The path was overgrown, here at summer’s end, and the grass was long and heavy with dew.

You always spent a long time sniffing that corner at the beginning of your path.

The good sniffs might have made up for your wet paws though. I imagine you wouldn’t have grumbled too much, you loved walking in your park so much.

I smiled at that thought.

Lots of wet spider webs. You’d have stuck your nose into a few of them for sure.

I was pretty proud of myself, that I smiled at all. Because mostly I was crying as I walked along. I imagined you everywhere. All our favorite places.

Leaves are beginning to turn. You always looked so good in the fall foliage.

Your turtle friends were out but I didn’t see much else. That might have been because my eyes were all leaky.

I think they were wondering where you’ve been.

It was even hard for me to tell if stuff was in focus on my camera. Yes, silly, of course I brought the camera. Though it wasn’t as much fun without you.

I took a picture of my favorite trees, though it’s hard to understand how they can still be standing when you’re not here.

Anyway, my mission was to hang a memory tag on the remembrance tree. You remember when your Aunt Karen and you and I hung some tags for Reilly and Denny and Norwood, right?

Three beautiful boys remembered. Now there are more we should include.

Well, she had a special tag made for you and she gave it to me after you had to go. I haven’t been able to hang it on the tree until today. I put it right next to your handsome fiancé Reilly’s tag.

Can you read what it says, sweetie? Of course you can.

I know you and Reilly are together now, and you’re both loving the beach and the woods while you wait for your people to arrive. It makes me feel better to know you have so many friends there with you.

Everything in it’s season.

Today I hung your tag at your favorite park, sweetie. I just wanted you to know. Miss you baby-girl.

Love, Mama.

See you around the next curve, Katie-girl.

Well, of course I know mama! Where do you think I was while you were wandering around and crying all over my park? I was right there beside you. Silly mama, I’m always right there beside you. Thanks for hanging my tag, it’s real pretty. Thank Aunt Karen for getting it for me too, OK?

Love you always, mama. Tell daddy I love him too. Got to go now, Reilly wants to go run on the beach.

-Your angel-girl, Katie.


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Waiting on the Milky Way

So what does a person do all day while waiting for true dark to arrive? Besides nap that is.

Working on the river.

Well, on the one day the skies were clear while I was in the UP I wandered the Manistique waterfront looking for other things to photograph while impatiently urging the sun to hurry up and sink.

If you zoom in you might be able to read about the lighthouse.

The mouth of the Manistique River was being dredged so I watched that for awhile. It was sort of interesting, but you can only watch so many piles of mud being moved before you have to move on.

Scoop after scoop of muck was dug up from the river bottom and poured into the barge.

I couldn’t resist walking out on the causeway leading to the shiny red lighthouse. It was such a pretty day.

A wide cement walkway made the trip out there easy to navigate.

I spent quite a bit of time out there waiting for the sun to go down. And watching the light glint off the water.

It’s not a long walk on a pretty day.

A couple of guys were fishing but they hid behind the lighthouse for me to get some shots.

All metal, it can withstand some nasty weather. But none was forecast while I was there.

But as the sun lowered I came back into shore.

The flowers glowed, loosestrife, an invasive, and goldenrod.

The evening light makes everything so pretty.

The last bit of light before the magic begins.

And then, slowly, slowly, the sun sank and the blue hour began.

Let’s take a walk down this boardwalk.

Earlier in the day I had scoped out a place to set up, hoping that the Milky Way would be near the lighthouse from my vantage point. The compass said it should be. But I knew I only had one night so I hoped I wasn’t wrong.

The beginning of blue hour on the beach.

I waited impatiently. It takes forever for the night to get truly dark. And then….a few stars decide to turn on their lights.

Here we go…

I still couldn’t tell exactly where the Milky Way was going to shine…but the stars made me smile anyway. And then….finally, finally, there it was. It was pretty darn amazing. I don’t know why the beach wasn’t full of people just staring.

Take a moment and just look.

I stayed out there a long time. A lot of it not shooting, just standing there, in the moment.

Because, really, how many shots can you take of the same lighthouse with the Milky Way? Well, as it turns out…several dozen. You see, the dark sky requires that you have a high ISO and a wide open aperture and that causes grainy shots.

Beautiful without the lighthouse too.

But you can stack them. Did you know that? There’s software that will lay your photos, one on top of the other, and match up your stars and eliminate anything different. And that clears up a lot of the grainy noise. Huh. So I was taking 7 shots of each shot, in preparation for stacking. But I learned, just this week, I should have taken 10 to 15 shots to stack.

Ah well.

Many of my images had these streaks. I never saw it when I was on the beach, but some people say this light in the sky is the Sky-Link satellites. Zoom in and see what you think.

So, anyway, these are single images, no stacking here, just a little editing to bring out the whites and sometimes to lift the shadows.

I still have so much to learn…so many technical things that I can do to make the images more clear, more beautiful. But the Milky Way season here in Michigan is almost over. There will be one more chance in October, just a few nights, and then I’ll have to be patient until 2023.

Just to show you, we are never alone, the sky is full of stuff flying around.

Yea right. I can hardly handle waiting for the sun to set in a single evening. How am I going to get through months of no Milky Way?

It’s gonna be tough.


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So, on to the UP – ey?

Let’s see…last you knew I was hanging out in Mackinaw City waiting for it to stop raining so I could continue on over the bridge to my next adventure.

It was such a beautiful night.

Yep, I was feeling pretty good. Almost kinda certain that I had gotten some decent Milky Way shots at my last location. Of course I didn’t really know, but was feeling good about it.

The other end of the Milky Way.

And I was so excited to be heading to a new (to me) location to find more dark skies. I had a campsite booked for three nights at Fayette State Park which is located at the bottom of the “Garden Peninsula,” a piece of land jutting down into Lake Michigan from the southern edge of the UP. Should be perfect, right?

Well…wrong. When I arrived at the park about 4 p.m. and drove to my site I found a very small site (not necessarily a deal breaker) that was entirely sloped, about the size of 2 cars, and totally a mud pit.

Out of focus because I was speeding away.

I sat there in the drizzle for the amount of time it took me to say”H*LL NO,” and then I drove the long 14 miles back up to civilization where I sat beside the road and searched the internet for a cheap hotel.

Where do I go now?

Along the way, down and back up, I did note that the Garden Peninsula itself was beautiful. With lots of barns and windmills and such.

So that made it a bit easier when I had to drive back down there again to formally check out of the campground that I never camped in so that I could get a refund for the other two nights.

A barn being renovated.

A sixty dollar refund was worth the drive too. I should have just checked out the evening before when I decided not to stay but I was so freaked out by the campground I just ran.

Mama cow wants me to move along.

I made reservations at another state park, Indian Lake, which pretty close to the town of Manistique. It was a much nicer place, with larger camp sites and grass. It wasn’t full my first night so I had a distant view of the lake, though the second night someone camped behind me. Still, I had plenty of room.

Much better. Grass and a view.

And it was only three miles away from the lighthouse where I spent a lot of hours waiting for a sunset and hoping for a chance at a decent Milky Way image.

Did I get that image? Well, as usually this post is getting too long, and I still have lots of images to edit. So I guess you’ll have to wait and see.

Not much of a sunset….but there was the anticipation of stars.

I just had another 2 hour lesson from my Milky Way teacher and I now know more about what I don’t know. I guess I need to get out there for another practice session!

Meet Harlo, my doggie neighbor at the campground.

Oh darn.


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What am I doing?

I’m off on a grand adventure. Well. An adventure of some sort anyway.

My adventure land for the first two nights.

Have you ever wondered what people do all day when they’re camping? Since I grew up camping I never considered that a question. It’s always been obvious to me. You do stuff.

Mostly what I’ve been doing.

On my current adventure I’ve been reading. And entertaining this guy who tried to climb into my lap on several occasions.

I think he’s had plenty of snacks already.

I haven’t gone exploring or walked the trails. I’ve been here before, many times, usually with Katie. At this exact site. So I spent a lot of time staring up into the sky and talking to her.

Hey girlie, remember all the times we spent here together?

And crying of course. Because I miss her so much. She was definitely with me these last couple of days at site #43.

Katie’s just around that next bend. I’m sure of it.

But mostly what I have been doing is waiting for it to get dark. And hoping that the sky will remain clear. So I can do this.

Maybe I was overrun by aliens. Or shooting stars. Or not.

Well, not exactly this….on this shot the center pole decided to slowly sink and swing the camera around in the middle of the 15 second shot. Still, it’s cool.

No, I was working more toward this.

This was one of the first shots, just to figure out where the Milky Way was.

But not exactly this either. I took a lot more, and I’ve only processed a couple of the images from that first night under the stars.

Actually there’s only been one night under the stars. Because the second day it poured rain.

In between the downpours I ventured into town to get gas.

And when it wasn’t raining I sat and worked on the images from the night before.

Wishing it would stop raining.

I thought about where I’d be going next. I knew it was across the bridge.

Beautiful even in the rain.

I’d never been to the state park I was headed to over there before so I was kind of excited. Not so excited that I wanted to drive across the bridge in the pouring rain though.

So I waited.

On a rainy afternoon might as well go for a hotdog. Actually, no I didn’t.

And waited. And waited But the rain never stopped so eventually I took a deep breath and slowly drove across the bridge to the Upper Peninsula. Where it was raining.

It will clear up soon. I’m sure.

So what happened next? I can’t tell you because I need to take a shower and check out of my hotel room.

Stay tuned.

There might be a barn or two involved.


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On the way from here to there

I took myself off for a camping adventure this week. First stop was a park Katie and I have visited several times. Most of the time we end up in site 43.

Turns out four years ago yesterday Katie and I were at this very site, packing up, heading for home.

Four years ago at site 43. I don’t want to leave, mama!

But first I took her up to the Mackinaw Bridge, because she had never seen it. She wasn’t all that impressed. And the ride home was extra long because we went north before we went south. But she was a trooper and never complained. Much.

Best rest stop ever, mama!

This trip I stopped at a rest stop just before my exit, because it’s one of Katie’s favorite rest stops. Turns out there was a commercial truck inspection going on. All trucks were mandated to pull off the freeway at the rest stop so commercial vehicle inspectors could check their rigs and their hours of service.

Thank you to Michigan’s State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection team.

I walked over to the table at the front of the inspection line and thanked the two officers there. I told them the truth, that whenever I saw them and a commercial truck pulled over I give them a thumbs up and that it was nice to be able to do that in person.

Then I gave them my Truck Safety Card, thanked them again, and went on my way feeling better about our roads knowing the state police are working on it.

Next month I’ll be in DC again, along with many other families and victims of truck crashes. We’ll be voicing our objections to some things going on (teen truckers) and asking for more changes, (increased minimum insurance, automatic emergency braking on ALL trucks) many of the same changes we’ve been asking ever since I started this journey almost 18 years ago.

Our last press conference, 2019

Change is hard.


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And Day Three

Here it is already a week since we drove home from our UP adventure and I still have more to show you. Maybe I should stop talking and just let you look.

Oh! I almost forgot! I had whitefish tacos with pickled onions for lunch, our first day, in Paradise Michigan!

On our third and last day in the UP we got headed west toward Grand Marais where I assured my friend we’d find more stones.

If you stop at the little places along the way you’re liable to find the most amazing things.

But along the way we drove up to Deer Park, north of Newberry, and then along Lake Superior’s coast and stopped at a delightful little beach with the prettiest stones!

Just a little stretch of perfect beach.

I don’t think I found any flat white ones, but my friend found quite a few beautiful souvenirs.

They’re even prettier when they’re wet.

And we left a souvenir for someone else to find too.

I hope this doggie has a new forever home now!

And then we headed over to Grand Marais.

A walk to the beach.

Many people searching this beach are looking for agates. I wouldn’t know an agate from a rubber duck, so I just looked for flat white stones to paint. I didn’t find many of those either.

The sky was almost as mesmerizing as the water.

But the weather was beautiful with big fluffs of white clouds dressing up the sky and we had a great time wandering.

There were lots of rock hunters out on such a beautiful day.

We didn’t stay long, we were hungry and still had miles to go to get to Munising, our next stop. But we left a painted treasure for someone to find before we left.

A fish and his food wait for his person to find him.

It’s kind of a long way to go for a sandwich, but we enjoyed the glimpses of Lake Superior that we found along the way. We were hoping to stop at a couple of waterfalls in Munising before heading back to Whitefish Point for the sunset.

Do you see the surprise?

We ate at Subway, noting exotic, but filling. And of course we stopped for a visit with Munising’s Bigfoot, where we left another treasure.

The traffic was terrible in Munising, backed up for miles coming into town from 3 directions. We decided to nix the idea of getting in line to get out to one of the waterfalls, and headed to one that was on the way out of town, Wagner Falls.

The wildflowers, Joe Pye, goldenrod and queen anne’s lace were so beautiful this trip.

There’s a short mostly flat boardwalk back to the falls, and we were lucky that there weren’t many people stopping for a visit.

We took a few pictures…

The roots were pretty too, but I wish people would be kinder to nature.

…and then hid our treasure and were on our way back toward Whitefish Point.

Hidden in plain sight.

We had a long drive to get there before sunset, but we arrived early enough to appreciate the golden light on all the driftwood, and the clouds streaking the sky. This could turn out to be a stunning sunset!

The light was like this for only a few moments.

We wandered the beach, noticing how pretty everything was in the evening light…

Black ‘sand’ filled the crevices in the lighter sand. Art created by nature.

… and how the beach moves and changes every day.

A little bit of art in the middle of nature’s art.

We found a couple of places to hide more treasure and then waited for the sun to settle down and set.

Is the sky going to get prettier? Or is this it for the evening?

Most people left the beach once the sun was below the horizon, but we were out there for the long haul (and to find Yooper Lights) so we waited in the cooling air to see what would happen next.

An eagle appeared at the horizon.

And we were rewarded by intense color and beautiful shapes. It just kept getting better until it finally died into grey. The sun was done for the day, but we weren’t.

The last of the sunset and the beginning of the search.

After the sun was down we looked for Yooper Lights (stones that glow in inferred light) along with a few other late night stone addicts.

Nothing under here.

Though we didn’t find any that night, the night before, on a cold windy evening, we witnessed a young boy and his dad find a stone that glowed. The boy was soooo excited, jumping up and down in the cold Superior waves. We got him and his dad to show us what the stone looked like, and in the midst of the conversation the boy turned and looked at us, his eyes wide and said:

“I really wish I was wearing long pants!”

We roared in laughter, in all the excitement he’d been running in and out of the water of the coldest lake around without a care. Until he stopped to talk to us.

Saying goodbye to Whitefish Point. We’ll be back!

And that’s kind of the way our whole trip was. We didn’t always find what we set out to see, the perfect rock, the perfect view, the perfect sunset.

Trying to get capture that moon.

But the excitement of the whole experience kept us motivated to continue the adventure regardless. And though there were moments we wished we were wearing long pants, on the whole, it was a perfect summer trip. Mosquitoes and all.

Hoping to be noticed.

And just think, there are all those treasures out there just waiting to be found.


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So, as I was saying…

Let’s see, before Katie decided you needed a Katie fix I was about to take you over the Mackinaw Bridge and on into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My friend, who was in the passenger seat, got some really cool shots of the bridge as we drove over it. I should ask her to share them here…but meanwhile let’s go see what we saw once we left downstate behind.

On our way to a lighthouse.

You might think that the UP (short for Upper Peninsula) is nothing but trees and lakes and mosquitos. You would, of course, be wrong. Thought not far wrong…there’s plenty of all that too.

For example there’s the lighthouses. Did you know Michigan has more lighthouses than Maine? Yea…I forgot, I told you that factoid a few years ago when we were traveling in Maine.

This one is in Mackinaw City, at the Southern end of the big bridge.

We visited one of them on our first full day in the UP. It’s a lighthouse that’s not easy to get to, and they tell you on their website and in their literature not to try to find it using GPS.

Trust me, they know what they’re talking about.

Only 6.5 more miles to go!

There’s no GPS or any kind of service out there, and you get dropped while you’re still miles away in the middle of the middle of nowhere. You need to follow sandy, sometimes two track roads. But the route is mostly well-marked (except for one very important corner where I had a 50/50 chance of guessing right but went left) so if you pay attention and follow the signs you will eventually get to Crisp Point Lighthouse.

Your first glimpse of Crisp Point Lighthouse makes you smile.

It’s definitely worth the multi-mile drive through the woods on roads filled with deep holes and standing water. Actually, the roads are one of the reasons I love it so. There are fewer people (but not NO people!) out there. You definitely won’t want to take your RV on those roads, and there’s nowhere to turn around, but if you have a car with a bit of clearance you’ll be fine.

Anyway, once you’re finally there, and have breathed your sigh of relief, you’ll be able to climb the tower if volunteers are on duty to open it up. We were lucky and got to enjoy the view from the top.

From inside the tower you can see forever.

And then, since my friend is into rock picking, we walked the beach looking for perfect stones. Though to be honest they all looked like perfect stones to me.

Take your pick, you can’t go wrong!

She’s a rock painter, someone who paints rocks with cute colors and pictures and than hides them for people, often kids, to find. It’s a thing. And I found out how fun it is to hide her painted stones as we left more than a dozen behind during the three days we were out exploring, tucked into crevices across the UP.

Wonder who found this painted turtle?

So I looked for smooth, white rocks that would be good for painting, and she looked for specific types of stones, like quartz (we both found some of that) and granite (lots of it!) and pudding stones (maybe!) and all sorts of others. I don’t remember most of it, but I was pretty good at finding smooth white stones.

Eventually we had to leave this perfect place and find our way back to the world of paved roads. We intended to spend the evening at Whitefish Point, several miles up the Lake Superior shoreline. Maybe there would be a sunset. Maybe there would be stars.

Waiting on the sun.

Maybe…just maybe we’d get to see the last super moon rise up from Lake Superior. And, of course, there’s a lighthouse there too.

An entirely different kind of lighthouse at Whitefish Point.

Well, it turns out there wasn’t much sunset, though it was still beautiful.

The cloudless sky turned orange and the most interesting part were the people watching it set.

And the moon obliterated most of the stars…so we didn’t stay real late, and we made it back to the hotel in Sault Ste. Marie shortly before midnight.

It was amazing.

Just in time to get a good night’s sleep in order to get up and do it all over again in the morning!

Do you see the hidden treasure?

Were should we go next?